Skip to content

Shuswap Film Society: Self-destructive teen bonds with alcoholic grandmother in Juniper

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent
The film Juniper, based on the teenage experiences of director/writer Matthew Saville, runs Saturday, March 18 at the Salmar Classic. (Photo contributed)

“When I was 17, my alcoholic grandmother broke her leg and moved from Europe to live in New Zealand in the family home.”

That’s Matthew Saville explaining his personal experience that was the impetus for his debut feature film Juniper.

Matthew (named Sam in the movie) is already reeling from the death of his mother, and his father sending him off to boarding school. When his bad behaviour gets him kicked out of boarding school, his father, Robert, retrieves him, with the news that Sam’s grandmother, Ruth, and her nurse, will be living with them as Ruth recuperates. Sam hates the idea — he’s never met the woman since his father’s been estranged from her for years.

Ruth, fiercely independent but now wheelchair-bound, is a gin-guzzling ex-war photographer dealing with the inevitability of aging and is not thrilled with the current arrangement either. Robert leaves for England shortly after she arrives, basically abandoning his mother and son at the same time, and forcing the crabby and demanding older person, and the bitter, emotionally fragile youngster, to co-exist.

Sam and Ruth immediately butt heads, but slowly discover they have more in common than they might have initially thought. The bond that builds between them melts away their animosity, and helps them come to terms with their lives, and their respective relationships with Robert when a tragic turn of events takes place.

A beautifully acted movie, Juniper has insightful things to say about how alcoholism and dysfunction echo unhappily down generations. It plays at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 18 at the Classic.

Read more: ‘Everything’ wins best picture, is everywhere at Oscars
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Sign up for our newsletter to get Salmon Arm stories in your inbox every morning.